As many as five masked gunman armed with explosives and carrying AK-47s, invaded a Garissa University College dorm, singling out non – Muslim students and viciously gunning them down. The attack, which lasted around 13 hours, ended when police and security forces killed four of the militants.
Claire Bernish(The Pontiac Tribune) – Gunmen from the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab killed at least 147 people in northeastern Kenya when they lay siege to a university, just after dawn on Thursday. As many as five masked gunman armed with explosives and carrying AK-47s, invaded a Garissa University College dorm, singling out non – Muslim students and viciously gunning them down. The attack, which lasted around 13 hours, ended when police and security forces killed four of the militants. Another suspect attempted to flee but was subsequently arrested.
The militants captured many hostages in the raid which lasted for about 13 hours, ending only when police and security forces fired on them, killing four. At least 79 others were wounded in the incident. Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery spoke to Kenyan media, saying: “The operation has ended successfully. Four terrorists have been killed”. Police tried repeatedly to stop the terrorists throughout the day, but had difficulty reaching them. Eventually, the attackers were cornered in a dorm, where Kenyan security forces fired on them. According to Nkaissery, several police were wounded by shrapnel when the militants exploded “like bombs”, and two security guards, one soldier, and one police officer were among the dead.
Al-Shabaab is an al-Quaeda affiliated extremist group based in Somalia, but they have been responsible for many attacks on Kenyan soil including a siege on Westgate Mall in Nairobi in 2013, during which 67 people were killed. A spokesman for the group, Ali Mohamoud Raghe, recorded a message in which the group claimed responsibility for this latest attack, saying “The Christian government of Kenya has invaded our country”, a reference to the Kenyan military attempt to root out al-Shabaab strongholds in Somalia in 2011. Known for their desire to impose an exceedingly strict version of sharia law, the group claimed they targeted Garissa because of its acceptance of Christian students, which they see as part of Kenya’s “plan to spread their Christianity and infidelity”. Police have now placed a $220,000 bounty on the head of Mohammed Mohamud, a teacher at an Islamic school, or madrassa, and the suspected mastermind in this raid who also claimed responsibility for a bus attack in November in which 28 people were killed.
The White House condemned the attack and press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement, “The United States stands with the people of Kenya, who will not be intimidated by such cowardly attack”. The US pledged further assistance “to the Kenyan Government, and we will continue to partner with them as well as with others in the region to take on the terrorist group al-Shabaab.” . Formally known as the Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahidin, the clan-based insurgent group was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Executive Order 13224 in 2008, and rewards were offered for the capture of many of its leaders in 2012. Often using forceful methods of recruitment of sub-clans, the organization has specifically targeted the Somali Federal Government and various other NGOs including the African Union Mission in Somalia. Though they typically have only nationalistic, non – global jihadist goals in mind, many of their attacks in Somalia and Kenya have claimed nationals and foreigners alike, deeply wounding the tourism industry.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta expressed condolences to the families of the victims, saying he would keep them in his prayers. Just Wednesday, he had urged Kenyans abroad to encourage tourism, despite warnings from Australia of a possible coming attack in Nairobi. Britain had also expressed concern by warning its citizens located in Kenya to stay away from coastal regions. One student at a school near the university where the attack took place told Reuters that locals had noticed “strangers in Garissa town were suspected to be terrorists”, and that a strike could be forthcoming. “On Tuesday we were released to go home, and our college closed, but the campus remained in session, and now they have been attacked.” Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, Muthoni Wanyeki, issued a statement calling the attack “horrific” and pressed authorities to “conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice“. The statement continued: “Citizens and public servants in the north have repeatedly expressed fears about their vulnerability to Al Shabaab attacks, which the Kenyan government has failed to appropriately address. Learning institutions are meant to be safe places for students and their teachers. Their protection must be fully guaranteed.”
Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinet has issued a dawn – to – dusk curfew for four regions bordering Somalia. According to police, al-Shabaab was responsible for 312 deaths from 2012 – 2014. Pres Obama had scheduled a visit to the region, but it is unclear whether these events will force him to reschedule.
(Feat. Image: Reuters/Noor Khamis)